LUT and LAB donate computational power to help tackle the coronavirus crisis – computers now working hard around the clock

LUT University and LAB University of Applied Sciences are participating in the Folding@home project, which is carrying out computer modelling of the coronavirus.

At the LUT University and LAB University of Applied Sciences campuses in Lappeenranta and Lahti, computers are being harnessed to help tackle the coronavirus crisis. The computational power of the computer labs, which are currently empty of students, has been donated to the international Folding@home project, which aims to model the coronavirus protein chain in order to understand the functioning and structure of the virus.

"More than 900 computers from LUT schools are participating in the project. This is already a significant amount, and so we will produce a relatively large number of calculations for the project," says Antti Sirviö, head of IT at LUT.

The information obtained from the project will be utilised, for example, in the development of antibodies to coronavirus. The Folding@home project is based at the University of Washington. The project name refers to the pleated structure of the protein.

In the past, the organisation has also utilised distributed computing in research to simulate the Ebola virus.

Collaboration is powerful in computing projects

In practice, LUT and LAB participate in the project by installing the Folding@home software on their computers. This provides the computers with the computing packages to be solved. When a task is returned, the software then assigns a new task.

"These kind of calculations are heavy work for the computers. It can take a very long time to get a solution," Sirviö explains.

The more computers involved, the greater the computing power. The Folding@home project has hundreds of thousands of computers participating all across the world. Their total computing power is shown on the project's website: at the moment it is equal to around 760 petaflops. According to a tweet sent at the end of March by Project Director Greg Browman (@drGregBowman) Folding@home qualifies as the world's most powerful distributed supercomputer.

LUT and LAB are participating in the project out of a desire to join in this effort to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The transition to distance learning and remote work on the LUT campus took place on 18 March.

"The idea of joining the Folding project arose while considering how the unused computers on the campuses could be utilised during the coronavirus pandemic, and perhaps even put to an exemplary use. This is one way in which we can help society during this difficult time", says Mark Poutanen, Development Manager at LAB University of Applied Sciences.

For more information:

Folding@home.org
COVID19 Folding
LUT schools' LUT Group ICT Folding team: https://stats.foldingathome.org/team/257637

Antti Sirviö
Head of IT, LUT University
antti.sirvio@lut.fi

Mark Poutanen
Development Manager at LAB University of Applied Sciences
mark.poutanen@lab.fi